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A Simulation of a Biological MIS Algorithm

I’ve finished a simulation-visualization of the very cool algorithm for generating a Maximal Independant Set from “A Biological Solution to a Fundamental Distributed Computing Problem” by Afek et al. (sorry I don’t have a link to the PDF, and respect you too much to link you to a paywall).

You can play with it or check out the code on GitHub; in particular, see “algorithm.js” for the didactic implementation of the algorithm.

It uses jQuery and Raphael.js for the visuals and events.

Goals for the project

  1. create a fun visual simulation that can give a nice intuition for the algorithm

  2. remain true to the algorithm as described in the paper, and to avoid anything novel or clever at this point

  3. attempt to organize my code in such a way as to be a readable explanation of the algorithm as described in the paper, hiding or isolating implementation details

  4. attempt to model the behavior of a real-world network of nodes using the OO abstraction, and (synchronous) events.

Trying to meet these demands was revealing. For one thing I was forced to break up the two message exchange steps into four discrete steps which must be performed synchronously across the network for things to work without race conditions.


The pseudocode description is hiding some of the complexity and brittleness of the algorithm IMHO. I’d like to take it apart and try to rip out as many of the synchronous-network dependencies as I can, or explore how an identical but asynchronous system behaves: give all the nodes jittery clocks and without a coordinated start.